Hills: Cuilags, Ward Hill, Knap of Trowieglen, Hoy, Orkney
Date: 18th May 2011
Company: Myself and Beinn
Distance: 14.5km, Ascent: 1260m
Time: 7 Hrs
Dog friendly: One barbed-wire fence

Hoy (High island) is probably best known for the Old Man of Hoy, however, it also has some of the highest cliffs in the UK and contains the three highest hills in the Orkney Islands, Ward Hill, Cuilags and Knap of Trowieglen.

This morning I drove to Stromness to catch the 07:45 ferry to Hoy.

Orkney Ferries ferry from Stromness to North Hoy:

Looking back to Stromness:

It was a nice morning and from the ferry the hills looked pretty-good.

Ward Hill from ferry:

Cuilags from ferry:

The crossing took only a little over twenty minutes but was a rough crossing.

Arriving at Moaness, Hoy:

I made up the route as I went along. All going well my aim was to ascend the three hills and return to Moaness for the last ferry of the day at 18:15.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

At Moaness, I had to decide whether to head for Cuilags or Knap of Trowieglen first. I opted for Cuilags. I walked along the road from Moaness towards Rackwick.

Looking back towards Moaness from road towards Cuilags:

Road to Cuilags:

After walking a couple of kilometres, I stopped to read the RSPB sign. 1900 pairs of Great Skuas (Bonxies) on Hoy . I saw perhaps a dozen at most throughout the walk and thankfully there were no Bonxie attacks today .

RSPB Hoy Nature Reserve sign:

After passing the end of Sandy Loch, we took to the hillside ascending the steep East ridge of Cuilags.

Sandy Loch and Ward Hill from East ridge of Cuilags:

Looking back towards Moaness, Graemsay and Orkney Mainland:

It didn't take long to reach the summit of Cuilags; only 65 minutes from Moaness.

View from summit of Cuilags:

The weather had been quite good thus far, however I could see rain moving in so I stopped for five minutes in the shelter to put on my waterproofs and give Beinn some food.

Shelter near summit of Cuilags:

Thanks to my friend Dave for alerting me to five plane wrecks on Hoy. One of these wrecks was on my descent route from Cuilags. The wreckage is spread over a wide area; I was still finding pieces of wreckage 300m beyond finding the first piece. A few of the photographs follow.

GR-V Liberator / FL949 wreckage:

GR-V Liberator / FL949 wreckage:

GR-V Liberator / FL949 wreckage:

GR-V Liberator / FL949 wreckage:

View towards Rackwick:

A short distance beyond the plane wreckage, I chose to descend steep heather aiming for the Burn of Redglen on Ward Hill.

Descent from Cuilags towards Burn of Redglen on Ward Hill:

As we began our ascent of Ward Hill, the rain started lashing down. Poor Beinn was soaked by the time we reached the summit.

Ascent of Ward Hill:

Bonxies on Ward Hill:

There are a few cairns on Ward Hill. The large cairn at the north-end of the summit area is worth a visit. It is a good viewpoint.

View from viewpoint cairn on Ward Hill:

View from viewpoint cairn on Ward Hill:

Bay of Quoys (zoom):

Viewpoint cairn:

After visiting the viewpoint cairn we made our way to the summit cairn.

Beinn at summit of Ward Hill:

At the summit, I checked my camera to find out the time, as I don't wear a watch, and was somewhat surprised to find that it was still well before lunchtime. I had plenty time to also ascend Knap of Trowieglen.

Trig Point and Shelter near the summit of Ward Hill:

I got my compass out and took a bearing to ensure we reached the Howes of Quoyawa.

Knap of Trowieglen from Ward Hill:

Descending Howes of Quoyawa:

Looking back at descent from Ward Hill:

The final descent from Ward Hill to the road was steep. As we approached the road, a new well-built barbed wire fence was in our way. The fence was right to the ground, had three strands of barbed-wire with vertical wires as well as horizontal ones. We had to walk the length of the fence before finding a hole big enough for Beinn to squeeze through.

Knap of Trowieglen before steep descent:

Knap of Trowieglen from road:

After crossing some rough ground we started our ascent of Knap of Trowieglen.

Trowie Glen waterfall:

Ascent of Knap of Trowieglen:

Looking back to Ward Hill from slopes of Knap of Trowieglen:

The Knap of Trowieglen had a number of hares on it. I think Beinn would have liked to give chase had he not been on his lead.

Easy ascent towards summit of Knap of Trowieglen:

Beinn at summit of Knap of Trowieglen:

Orkney Islands:

From the summit of Knap of Trowieglen, we returned to the road via the same route. During the descent, on passing a lochan, I asked Beinn if he wanted a drink. He jumped in .

Beinn in lochan near summit of Knap of Trowieglen:

The following helicopter was flying around the hills for much of the day.


The walk back along the road took less time than expected, so much so we arrived back in plenty time to catch the 16:30 ferry instead of the 18:15 one.

Dwarfie Hamars:

Road back towards Moaness:

Knap of Trowieglen from Moaness:

Ward Hill from Moaness:

Cuilags from Moaness:

Goodbye Hoy:

This circuit of the three Hoy Marilyns is an excellent walk. Next time on Hoy, I must visit the Old Man.